How to do Vegan Venice in Two Days

In October I turned the big 30, and I’ve been waiting on the present from the hub for a while – a trip to Venice. I knew it would be amazing, but I had it in the same category as Paris – some beautiful sights, but ultimately, a normal city like any other. This wasn’t the case. It took a few hours to shake the feeling that we were in a film set, or a themed area of Disneyland. It was too beautiful to be real.

Continue reading “How to do Vegan Venice in Two Days”

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Dinner at the Allotment vegan restaurant in Stockport

Although Stockport is minutes away from Manchester, I’m not very good at breaking the routine and going somewhere new. Last time I head that way was the Robinson’s brewery tour (well worth it) a few years ago. This time it was The Allotment that brought me back, teased by the the chef, Matthew Nutter’s, bold claim that “I can make aubergine taste better than steak“.  I’m not particularly looking for something that tastes like steak but I love the cheek of that statement. Continue reading “Dinner at the Allotment vegan restaurant in Stockport”

A vegan trip to the Lake District: walking in Ambleside

On the first real sunny weekend of the year we escaped to the Lakes. The sunshine was a happy coincidence rather than specifically running away to the sun, and it turned out to be the perfect weekend, with great vegan food, beautiful scenery and a gorgeous quiet little b&b to make our base. I’d never been to Ambleside before, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. Continue reading “A vegan trip to the Lake District: walking in Ambleside”

Eating vegan in Vegas

Las Vegas is a city of steak – and as a tourist it can be overwhelming trying to find vegan food to suit what you’re in the mood for, whether it’s something quick, cheap and on the go, or somewhere special to sit down and enjoy.

I recently spent a week in Vegas with my family, including a day at the World Pole Expo (<3). It took us a few days to find the best places, but here’s a run down:

Vegan Food in Las Vegas

The Wynn

First thing to note – Steve Wynn, owner of the Wynn and the Encore is vegan. I found it a little odd that a vegan would serve foie gras in his own establishment, but there you go. Anyway, it means that supposedly every food outlet in the Wynn provides at least one vegan option, so at least Steve doesn’t go hungry. We sampled chocolate chip muffins at “The Cafe” (divine) as well as a vegan pizza and a fake chicken thing with noodles at the Allegro, which is classed as casual dining but is pretty fancy for a cheeky dinner. In the US their version of Quorn appears to be Gardein Chick’n – which is much less dry and tough and overall better. The Wynn isn’t a cheap dinner, but it was delicious.


Allegro
The Cafe

Chipotle

Chipotle is a Mexican fast food outlet that’s all over the US, kind of like a Subway but for burritos. I guess the UK is getting more and more Barburrito now – it’s similar. We visited a few times while we were there as it was a quick lunch for on the go and there was one over the road from the Mirage where we were staying. Turns out I only have a photo of the burrito bowl – this was great for a bit of fresh salad after a few too many cocktails the night before! You can also get Sofritas in your burrito, which is shredded, spiced tofu – so good.

Chipotle

Hussong’s Cantina (Mandalay Bay)

Hussong’s was our last night in Vegas, and we were absolutely gutted not to have found it sooner. Seriously, we were only there a week but I’d have been happy to eat there 2 or even 3 nights. I LOVE Mexican food, and the comprehensive vegan menu included sour cream and Daiya cheese (which NEEDS to launch in the UK – best vegan cheese I’ve ever had). You can choose from Gardein Chick’n or Beefless Tips, of just plain fried veggies. As there were four vegans at our table we pretty much sampled every option between us, and it was all amazing. Casual, fun experience and even a mariachi band.

Hussong’s Cantina

Slice of Vegas (Mandalay Bay)

This one is a kind of cheat to include, and a bit bittersweet. We arrived at Hussong’s early for our reservation, so popped next door for a beer while we waited, which is where we found Slice of Vegas, a kind of casual sports bar. This is where we discovered a whole vegan pizza menu, but we had no more nights left to spend here. So here’s the menu, it looked great, but I can’t vouch for it. Let me know if you’ve been! (or don’t, it might upset me…)

Slice of Vegas

More eating vegan in Vegas

Aside from the above, you’ve also got Denny’s, which offers a vegan burger. You can find one on Freemont Street if you’re down for the light show. Walgreen’s are ok for an overpriced banana and some hummus if you find yourself in a bind. Brits know where they stand with Subway (veggie delite, obviously). And many of Auntie Anne‘s pretzels are vegan, as long as you request no butter. Stay away from Panda Express which cooks everything in animal stock, and California Pizza Kitchen which covered out cheese-free pizza in Parmesan!

gang

My trip was more about beers with family than fine dining, and it turned out that eating vegan in Vegas was easier than I thought – much easier than on the flight with Thomas Cook anyway! I’d love to return with a bit more cash in my pocket and try some of the more luxurious options, particularly at the Wynn and Encore (and to try the pizza at Slice of Vegas at least!) If you have any additions to this list, do let me know ❤

What do vegans eat at BBQs?

I fucking love summer. I can’t get enough of being outdoors, sitting on the grass barefoot drinking gin & tonics. Lighting  a fire when it gets late and an English chill sets in. Part of our quintessential English summer is the BBQ – getting friends and family together over the mutual burning of food. When I was veggie I ate a lot of grilled halloumi, leek & cheese sausages etc. So as this latest heatwave set in it left me thinking – could I still do BBQs? Was I doomed to grilled peppers over and over again? What do vegans eat at BBQs? Don’t worry – turns out it’s fine! Last weekend we had our first BBQ of the summer and I was in heaven. Here’s my menu:

BBQ Tikka Tofu fingers

I spent years getting tofu wrong. You have to treat it well to get a good result. This is a really simple option that should be beautiful as long as you don’t skimp on the golden rule of tofu – drain well.

This is dead easy but needs a bit of prep work – do this early in the day and then you’re laughing later on.

Ingredients:

  • One block of tofu.
  • Coconut oil (you could replace this with any oil that copes well with high heat)
  • Tikka powder – or even make your own mix from cumin, coriander, chilli powder and whatnot

Method:

  1. Take a block of tofu, and gently squeeze out the excess water over a sink. If you press gently it should sort of ooze. Then wrap the block in some kitchen roll and place between two plates. Leave this for about half an hour for even more liquid to escape.
  2. Make yourself a sangria (see below)
  3. Come back to the tofu after about 30mins of draining and slice it down the middle so you’ve got two thin tofu ‘bricks’. Then cut those in half so they’re half the height, then each of those pieces into about four smaller, thinner rectangles. Basically you end with tofu soldiers.
  4. Spoon some coconut oil into a small bowl and microwave in bursts for 10 seconds or so until it starts turning to liquid. Probably about a tablespoon when solid should be enough, but don’t go mad stressing over measurements.
  5. Mix in some tikka  If. As you mix in the powder the coconut oil should get even more liquidy and go sort of thick and gloopy. Rub this thick gloopy mixture into your tofu on all sides.
  6. Once it’s all rubbed in, pour any excess gloop over the top for good luck. Cover in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least two hours to marinate – the longer the better.
  7. Once your BBQ is nice and hot, gently place directly onto the wirerack. Turn over when the edge goes a bit golden and crispy.
  8. If all has gone well, you’ll end up with beautiful crispy on the outside soft on the inside tikka tofu – enjoy.
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Tofu fingers in a tikka gloop!

 

Chili aubergine rounds

Again, doing these in advance is key.

Ingredients:

  • One aubergine (eggplant to our US fam)
  • Chili oil
  • Salt

Method:

  1. Firstly, you need to gorge your aubergine. Slice it into rounds, about as thick as your finger. Cover these in salt and leave to one side for about half an hour. This will draw out the juices that can make aubergine tough or bitter and instead makes it mushy and delicious.
  2. Come back to it and scrape off the salt where you can. Noone wants a mouthful of salt, but also don’t stress over every grain.
  3. Use a pastry brush (or your fingers) to coat the slices in chilli oil.
  4.  Leave in the fridge covered in clingfilm. It can chill happily next to your tofu.
  5. Grill on a nice hot BBQ on both sides for 5-7 minutes.
  6. That’s it.

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Pile your tofu and aubergine into bread buns with spinach, sliced beef tomatoes, ghurkins, grilled peppers, mustard and whatever else you fancy.

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BBQ Garlic flatbreads

Dear readers, I saved the best til last. Also this isn’t my recipe, it’s Mr Jamie Oliver’s so I can’t take credit. Follow steps 1-4 of his basic bread recipe here, then adapt for the BBQ here. I just coated in garlic oil all over, he does something with olive oil and rosemary which does sound good.

Ingredients:

  • 500g bread flour
  • 300 ml tepid water
  • 15g fresh yeast
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 level tablespoon salt

Method:

  1. Put your flour in a bowl, make a “well” in the middle. Add half the water, then add you yeast sugar and salt and mix together within the well using a fork.
  2. Bit by bit, bring in more and more flour from the “walls” of your bowl, until it goes stodgy. Once it’s all in, or it’s getting tough to mix, start adding more and more of the remaining water. You might need more or less flour or water depending on the heat of the room.
  3. Once you’ve got something that looks like dough, smack it around a bit. Stretch and smack down, push it around until it goes all smooth and elastic. This is really gratifying.
  4. Leave in a bowl covered in cling film in a warm place until the dough more or less doubles in size. Jamie says half an hour but we ended up leaving ours for like an hour or 90 minutes cuz we were faffing with BBQ coals.
  5. Break off balls of dough and stretch out into rough flatbread shapes. With your hands, rub garlic oil all over.
  6. BBQ for about 3 minutes each side – you’ll see the edge go golden and it will stop sticking to the wire rack.
  7. Serve with more garlic oil and bit of balsamic if you fancy it. The outside will be golden and the inside light and fluffy. I can’t get over how well this came out.

Can’t wait for more BBQ experiments this summer! To finish off here’s my easy sangria  – one part red (vegan) wine, one part lemonade, lots of ice, a few shots of brandy, strawberries, lime and apples 🙂

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Sangria heaven

Vegan discoveries April round up: Keeping Cool

It’s been hot at last. Our garden has erupted in bluebells and I can bust out my Toms. You leave work and it’s still light, walking places becomes a pleasure again.

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I had planned to update this blog in categories, beauty update, snacks update and so on. But life doesn’t happen in categories and it’s always the how it happened rather than the what happened that makes the better story. Not that there’s much storytelling in today’s cruelty free update, but it’s been a month with things to smile about. I’ve been a bit clever and created a THEME for this post. And so, with no further ado, today’s edition has turned out to be on the loose theme of Keeping Cool.

Cruelty-free beauty: the vegan antiperspirant.

I put a lot of research and effort into looking for a cruelty free antiperspirant. As much as I’d love to run off and live in the woods and live in nature, in reality, I work in an office and no one likes a stinky pits. In addition, I have a very sweaty hobby, and so all in all a good deodorant is an essential.

The trouble with this part of the beauty industry is that everything seems owned by freaking L’Oreal, queens of animal testing. And it’s not just cruelty free that’s the issue, for example, Sure’s Aloe Vera antiperspirant has fish in it. I found this really useful blog post by the amazing The Eco Edit that helps you decode your make up bag’s ingredients list. Warning: it’s disgusting reading. But you owe yourself and your skin the right to make informed choices so please do read.

Anyway, when you Google vegan deodorant, vegan antiperspirant, you get the same handful of brands popping up, and they’re basically all US brands, hard to get hold of, or conflicting advice. It was impossible to find anything. Finally I found one, Salt of the Earth, which is stocked at Vegan Disneyland: (exciting, entertaining, overpriced…) Holland & Barrett.

Salt of the Earth spray
Salt of the Earth spray

When I found it on the shelf, I was underwhelmed. It looks like those little sprays you use to keep houseplants damp. It screamed NATURAL like all it was doing was waving homeopathic sugar piss under your arms. Nevertheless, I shelled out 5 English pounds and tried to think about all the weeping bunnies I would be saving while enduring a sweaty summer.

Let me tell you, I WAS WRONG! This stuff is incredible. It sprays on like water, admittedly taking a little while to dry, but it’s so effective. Probably better than the Mitchum 48 hour stick I used to use, and no greasy whiteness to go with it. I don’t know why the heck we cause this pain and suffering to the animals that are used as ingredients and guinea pigs, spreading crap on our bodies that’s probably giving us cancer (there’s a lot of research linking the aluminium in antiperspirant to breast cancer). This cheeky little bottle is perfect. 5 out of 5. And no I wasn’t gifted it and have never spoken to the company, but I feel like I should write them a letter of commendation. It’s no wonder they’ve won awards, this stuff’s got game.

Salt of the Earth
Platinum awards, vegan seal, leaf juice… ticking all boxes.

On the subject of Mitchum, supposedly their antiperspirants contain no animal ingredients, but they are owned by Revlon who sell in China and therefore conduct animal testing. My gut feel for this is to avoid where possible – it’s not like Mitchum shout about eco credentials, so by purchasing it it’s not like you’re showing off to Revlon that you care like in the case of Body Shop/L’Oreal. But it’s a grey area, let me know what you think?

Keeping Cool: Ice Cream edition

When I was a kid, I was never that into ice cream. I had an allergy to a certain red food colouring but a penchant for strawberry flavour things, so I developed an association between ice cream and vomming early on. When I started uni and our halls kitchen didn’t have a freezer, we had one of those amazing summers where it’s sunny permanently (2006 helloooooo). Suddenly I missed it and I craved it.

Going vegan was like being at uni again. Not being able to have it made me want it more. Luckily it appears there’s a shit tonne of milk free alternatives, and they taste ace. Ice cream must be an easy thing to crack, unlike cheese for example.

Top marks for branding goes to Tesco’s deliciously named “Choc Sticks“.

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Tesco choc sticks

The box looks clinical and weird. I had expectations of those crappy choc ices that are 20 for 50p where the chocolate is thin and bland and the ice cream is crystalline, watery and tasteless. Again: WRONG. I would challenge any non vegans to try this and say it’s not real ice cream. The chocolate on the outside is thick and rich dark chocolate, with a satisfying crack as you break it up. The ice cream inside is smooth, creamy vanilla, just like a magnum. They’re currently 3 for 2 and I have officially Stocked Up. Don’t be out off by the uninspiring packaging or name.

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Get in my belly choc stick

Ice cream treat number two is in even weirder packaging and it reminds me of the Doge meme (much wow, so ice cream).

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Just like Ice Cream Mochi Ice Dessert

I had never heard of Mochi before, so I’ve no comparison to whether these are authentic or different to ‘normal’. Basically, the outside is a sort of chewy, doughy, marshmallowy thing, that immediately makes you panic that there must be gelatin in it. There isn’t, it’s just starch from tapioca. You’re safe. Go with it.

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Mochi:  chewy ice balls

So you bite into it (it’s weirdly not that cold) and there’s a runny centre of coconut ice cream, very drippy rather than a solid scoop. I guess it’s sort of the jam donut of the vegan coconut ice cream world. Apparently they come in other flavours, mango, chocolate, strawberry and Black Sesame, naturally. I didn’t know what to expect when I opened them, but it definitely wasn’t 6 individually wrapped pieces. It seems quite wasteful in the plastic packaging, but they’re so sticky I can see why.

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Six coconutty balls

Would be ace if they replaced that with paper or something more eco friendly. High novelty factor, but it doesn’t sit in a bowl with broken oreos and strawberries in quite the same way. 4/5.

That concludes April’s vegan round up: Keeping Cool!  Looking forward to a theme presenting itself for a May round up. Suggestions welcome.

Love, Kayley xx

 

Vegan and cruelty-free beauty: part one

Leaping Bunny logo

Making the transition to vegan food has been pretty easy, but switching cosmetics, bodycare, toiletries and household cleaning stuff requires more research. I’ve taken the approach to change one thing at a time, as and when I run out.

Vegan Facewash

The first thing to go was my No7 toner that I use as a general facecleaner-upper / make up remover. Outwardly, Boots have said they do not test on animals, but they are not Leaping Bunny certified, which is an external validation of this claim. Also, Leaping Bunny does not mean vegan. It means that the product nor its ingredients are tested on animals. It doesn’t mean that it is free of animal derivatives. In this instance, the No7 toner contains lanolin, from sheep’s wool. Honestly, I haven’t done much research into the wool industry so I don’t have any strong feelings about it. However, Boots have been open about having laboratories in China, where animal testing is demanded by law. Until they are certified Cruelty free I thought I’d go for a safer option.

This is where I discovered micellar water.

What is micellar water?

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Vegan micellar water

So, my hub is a scientist. He tells me a micelle is like a little blob of something that is suspended in something else. Micellar water, is basically tiny invisible drops of cleanser suspended in water. When you put it on a cotton wool pad and rub it on your face, the friction bursts the micelles and you get a really fresh feeling. It works as a facewash and even removes waterproof mascara.

I chose Formula Time Defy from M&S, which is both Leaping Bunny certified and declared vegan. And it’s great. Smells really fresh, and you should see the colour of the cotton wool pad at the end if the day – it works, put it that way.

Vegan Shower Gel

Shower gel was much easier. I had already tried and loved Original Source before. They are actually certified vegan by the vegan society. My favourite without a doubt is the mint and tea tree. I’m prone to the sniffles and blocked sinuses, and washing your neck and chest with the mint is like a mini Vicks Vapor Rub in the morning, really opens the airways!

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Original Source – chilling with our ducks

So there’s my starter for ten – any recommendations on vegan shampoo and conditioner for bleached hair are VERY welcome!